Stratovarius are a band that doesn’t need an introduction, but I’ll complete one anyway for the newcomers who are yet to hear about the iconic quintet from Finland. Having gone through a revolving door of members, the band has struggled to hold its ground over the years, with no original members holding the project together, and the longest lasting member being vocalist Timu Kotipelto, who joined the band 11 years after the band was formed.
Regardless of the extensive member background, the band has done its due diligence to the music industry, being recognised as one of the founders of power metal. Now, with a solid lineup of unbelievably talented instrumentalists, the band has come out with their latest offering ‘Enigma: Intermission 2’, and the questions remains – does this compilation album stack up to the band’s discography?
Kicking off ‘Enigma: Intermission 2’ is the title track, Enigma; one of the only newer written tracks that truly bodes well to the setting of the whole album. For casual fans of power metal and Stratovarius, this track will definitely create the necessary ambience and texture for the tracks to come, with a specifically beautiful performance from guitarist Matias Kupiainen and drummer Rolf Pilve. Perfectly harmonising with the melodies and creating amazing vocal hooks, Kotipelto doesn’t hold back in his performance, and through this song in particular, he shows the audience and his fans that whilst being a vocal veteran in the power metal industry, he is still at the peak of his game and performance.
With more classic power metal-infused tracks such as Hunter, Hallowed and Burn Me Down, Stratovarius are nowhere near at the end of their career, proving time and time again that they’re some of the most talented musicians; not just in the genre, but in the whole of the music industry. A huge stand out of the album however is the sixth track of ‘Enigma: Intermission 2’, Kill It With Fire. With shared harmonisation sections shared between Kupiainen, keyboardist Jens Johansson and bassist Lauri Porra, the harmonisation between all of them as well as Kotipelto’s vocals creates the perfect triumphant ambience and overall feel that power metal is truly about.
Being a compilation album, ‘Enigma: Intermission 2’ is bound to have more in store than just an influx of power metal-heavy tracks, and it does, with four distinct orchestral versions of some older songs such as Unbreakable and Fantasy. I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t incredibly excited, as listening to orchestral versions of songs is one of my favourite pastimes, as it allows you to delve deeper into the original views and thought processes of the instrumentalists composition techniques and opens up completely new doors into the artform (see Nightwish’s Imaginaerum, Fleshgod Apocalypse’s King).
I got up to the first of the four, Fantasy, and I was sitting on the edge of my seat in excitement. I was really disheartened to hear Kotipelto’s come kicking in and drum tracks kick in (whilst that might be an exaggeration). It’s not to say I don’t enjoy Kotipelto’s vocals or Pilve’s drum performance, but I was expecting something along the lines of the albums that I had mentioned before; where I was able to just hear the orchestrals and experience a different side to Stratovarius. Whilst I was able to experience a less heavy Stratovarius, I felt I wasn’t able to experience the band’s true writing side and felt that I was almost held back from delving into another layer of an art form that I incredibly enjoy.
Other than the disappointment of the orchestral versions, ‘Enigma: Intermission 2’ truly maintains Stratovarius’ position as one of the most interesting creators of power metal. With the combined performances of all the members, their next proper upcoming full-length record is set to be something highly interesting and incredible, to say the least.
Stratovarius’ album, Enigma: Intermission 2, is out now and can be purchased here.